St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Have You Asked Congress to Preserve Our American History Yet?

Time is slipping past quickly. Have you contacted your Congressman to ask if he supports HR2256, the Preserving the American Historical Record Act? The PAHR will help Americans archive our precious records through grants to each state.

With all the recent weather events, it stands to reason we are losing our historical records. Too frightening to mourn them, we should all be asking Congress to move forward with the bill so American History is maintained for future generations.

Have you noticed how libraries and archives have reduced their hours for genealogy buffs? Let's work together and save our history!

Read the bill:

Check to see if your Congressman has signed on to support the bill:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday: Digging in the Graveyard

It's a cold blustery October day in Pittsburgh. An unexpected early snow flake or two can be seen in the air as everyone's bones are not quite used to the rapidly dropping temperatures. A small old graveyard is across the street from the church that is getting ready for a big celebration. For it is this year the church celebrates its 200th anniversary of its founding. Inside, the members are getting ready for the dinner which will honor the Founding Families as well as other people who have contributed to the church over the years.

Strangers appear in the door where preparations are being made for the festivities. The strangers, who are covered from head to toe in winter gear, ask for a shovel. A shovel? Absolutely. The strangers have some digging to do in the cemetery and time is of the essence for death is on the way.

Does this sound a little strange? Well, this is no story as it really happened back in 2004 at the Mt Lebanon United Presbyterian Church in Allegheny Co, PA.

The minister was perplexed when he heard that someone had come in looking for a shovel to dig in the cemetery. He looked across the road and saw people digging in the graveyard and he just knew who the strangers were, and he wasn't about to stop them.

Members of my family had traveled to Pittsburgh for one of our parties we hold from time to time in the St. Clair Cemetery, which was part of Associate Reformed Congregation of Saw Mill Run. The church was founded in 1804 by a number of men, including two of my 4g grandfathers. The cemetery's first known burial was in 1806 (my 4g-grandmother). Over the years, my family has laid many to rest in the St. Clair Cemetery. Stories from different sources indicate we are buried in layers. One of these sources was my great aunt who paid for the family plot upkeep for many years. While they rest peacefully, I do not.

I am on a mission. I have to know more about them as I am related to over half the cemetery occupants. Over the years, I have been able to assist the Historical Society of Mt Lebanon in providing information on many of the families, participating in resetting tombstones and honoring the contributions these early settlers gave to Pittburgh. Descendants have gathered to celebrate genealogy and our blood. The last reunion we had there in 2005 had descendants from nine states come to honor our roots.

Oh, and who were the strangers? They were my spouse and me. Why the shovel? The caretaker of the cemetery had called me to say he was cleaning up and getting rid of the overwhelming number of daylilly plants on my family plots. When I gasped, he said he would keep some of them and that he would not kill the plants until I got there.

I got there, grabbed the shovel, and dug up plenty of those wonderful daylilly plants. Now these plants grace the yards of several of my cousins-- from Pennsylvania to Florida to Montana.

My treasure is the memory of those wonderful days in the cemetery with my cousins as we celebrated our heritage. All I have to do to remember is to look out my door each day to see the evidence --- in those daylilly plants.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Madness Monday: Got My Blood?

As it's close to Halloween and with all the popular vampire books, I just couldn't resist using today's title, Got My Blood.

has been reading about my finds as I dig deeper in to the history of my family. Someone also has a love of genealogy. Someone has my blood, and just like a vampire's bite, I have to have more!

A man who shares my blood has found me through this blog. How much fun! What makes it exciting for me is this man and I share my 4g grandfather, John SIMMONS (1761-1843.) His brief comments last night gave me pause. Pause because I have yet to find any of his descendants from another one of his many children. Well, living.

John was married three times. I come from a son, Samuel, of his first marriage to Mary. His first wife died rather early on and John remarried and had several children with Lucinda. She appears to have died about 1823 or so, and John quickly married wife number 3. Wife number 3, Margaret HARBISON, was a young widow compared to him as she was about 30 years his junior. Yep, he had children older than her. But that's ok. They appear to have made a good life together until his death in 1843.

My new found cousin mentioned he had information on the eight children of John and Margaret. Eight children? Hmm. That's new.

To my knowledge, good ole John sure did like having children as I know he had:

Four with wife number 1 (one died as an infant)
Six with wife number 2 (she had a couple from her first marriage as well)
Four with wife number 3 (she had a couple from her first marriage as well)

Did John and Margaret have other children of which I am unaware? Did they die young as well and that is why the census and her will do not mention them?

Which son of John and Margaret does this new blood cousin descend from? Is it Ben or Gus? I suspect it is not Daniel as I don't think he had a son.

I hope he can solve some mysteries for me. Just like a vampire, I was up all night waiting to share this blood with my cousin.

I hope we'll be up all night together as we devour our shared blood.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Drying Out Those Precious Family Memories After the Flood

With all the recent rain and flooding, now is a great time to review tips on how to try and recover all those photographs, documents and other family treasures for genealogy.

Do you know how to clean pictures? Do you know if you can put them in water or not?

Here's a great tip page from the state of Georgia:

Friday, October 09, 2009

Sometimes Letting the Fingers do the Walking Works Wonders

No web site? How can that be? In this age and time, how can a small town historical society not be online? It seems, well, it seems so quaint.

I've been digging around in Sweden with the help of some online friends to try and find more documentation from the 1874-1877 time frame in Stockholm. We've made some progress and I hope more is to follow.

In the meantime, I took the time to go back and look at what I really have in the way of documentation from the state of South Carolina. There's work to be done.

After letting my fingers do the typing, the search in the probate court of Charleston left me with no more information than I had. Early family lore says my great grandparents were married there. If so, Charleston doesn't know it.

I checked the 1880 census in the place they moved and found them there. Of course, Orangeburg County searches had me pulling out my hair in vain. You just can't do a lot of online research there.

I found the birthdate of the couple's oldest child which is in 1880. So, logic tells me the marriage had to happen sometime between September 1879, which is when she got off the boat in New York, and the birth of the child. Logic says it, but there's no proof.

Time to let my fingers do the walking. I called the church at which the family were members in the 1880s. A very sweet older lady answered the phone. We chatted and then she asked for the surname. When I told her, I found out that my great uncle had worked for her brother in law and that her husband is kin to the wife of this same great uncle. Coincidence?

She didn't know of any records as she is only a sometimes volunteer, but I hope she found the common names of our blood lines sufficient that she will dig some in the past.

I also asked her about the local historical society and she tells me they just aren't real active. How can that be? Oh, I shudder at the thought.

Then, she pops up and tells me that my great uncle and his wife were very active members of the historical society. Perhaps there is more information to be found there!

The historical society is only open for a few hours a week and, of course, they are not open today.

So, while I haven't really found any evidence for my genealogy bug, perhaps, letting my fingers do the walking today will unearth a new treasure.

Tip of the day. Be sure to contact those old small churches. Their older members may dredge up some memories of some of your kin. Just another reason to smile as their memories get added to my memory bank.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Treasures Await Your Online Pleasure in South Carolina

Many public libraries across South Carolina have given us all a great big gift in the form of an online index to obituaries. While not complete, it can make a huge difference as you search for your genealogy treasure in South Carolina.

I spent a few minutes in the Florence Library site and found the index was decent for recent years, but way too scant for the early years in the 1900s. Both Greenville and York County searches were also not to my satisfaction due to either the time contstraints of the obituaries listed or due to having to know more details. Richland and Newberry Counties have some obits as well, but I didn't search those as my family is not known to have deep roots there.

I'll keep checking off and on to see how much progress is being made on the index Please note that if you find your treasure, you will have to contact the library to have a copy made.

But, as we know in genealogy, you have to keep on the hunt for those treasures. Sometimes, they show up years later. When they do, the feeling, well, the feeling is like finding the proverbial pot of gold under the rainbow.

Here are the sites I checked for an index:

South Carolina United Methodist Advocate

York County History
South Carolina Death Index 1915-1958 - appears to require Windows only
Florence Library
Greenville County Library

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

An Orphan with Family Ties

".....The years will come and go, joys and sorrows will multiply upon us who shall tarry here
below, but the memory of this quiet beautiful life will linger in our hearts like some goodly dream, which grows softer and sweeter and more precious each time that we recall it........."

The words above were spoken by the Rev. Elijah R Donehoo at the 1884 funeral of Kate NEELY in Allegheny Co, PA. I love this quote and think of it often as I think of family and those who have gone.

Family is such an interesting word and can bring up all sorts of thoughts.

I always felt like I didn't have much family growing up. As my dad was in the military, we were stationed nowhere near either family. My thoughts as a child on family were that we visited them now and again and gifts would show up at Christmas. I don't remember the loving hugs of grandparents, as one died when I was four and the other had developed dementia by the time I became a teenager. I could never run down the street to see my grandparents, aunts or cousins. Somehow, I feel like I got left out in the cold.

My parents also died while I was a young adult, so I missed out on getting to really know them as an adult.(If only I could remember all those stories they told now!) My older siblings live far away and left home before I developed lots of memories about them. Therefore, I have felt as if I am an orphan of sorts.

But, I have so much family. The blood of my veins sings a brilliant song and calls out to others who share it. Through my genealogy research, I have come to know many distant cousins. It can be entertaining to see what traits we share and to hear stories from them. Their memories intertwine with mine as we sing our family song. Yes, we are family. Yes, we have history.

The memories of our loved ones stay with us. They bring us smiles, laughter and tears. They bring us solace as we cope with loss.

No longer an orphan, I'm now surrounded by family. The love, the memories, the joy and the sorrow are all there. And they do become sweeter with time.

My thought of the day is share the past with your family. Memories shouldn't be left alone. They should be shared so your children don't have the feelings of orphans with family ties.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Madness Monday: Maggie, Who Was Your Father?

Sometimes, genealogy is frustrating. Especially when one is looking for an early female. Such is the case with Margaret McMILLAN.

According to her original tombstone, good ole Maggie was born in 1762. She married John HENRY of Lower St. Clair, Twp in Allegheny County as his second wife. His first wife, Sarah SMITH, daughter of John SMITH of Washington County, PA, died around 1790.

Maggie's father? I have a couple of candidates. One of the candidates is Thomas McMILLAN. Why? She named a son Thomas McMillan HENRY in 1791. I suspect it was her first child born to the couple as he already had four children by Sarah. There are a couple of Thomas McMILLANs living in the neighborhood but I have yet to prove any of them belonged to Maggie.

The other candidate which has a stonger claim at this time is Patrick McMILLAN. I did find a will in Washington Co, PA of a Patrick McMILLION. In this will, he mentions son in law John HENRY.

Why am I not convinced that Patrick is the right father for Maggie? There are no sons or grandsons or nephews or anyone named Patrick. Ever. And we all know that the Scot Irish naming tradition would not have allowed her father's and her mother's names to be ignored. I have to wonder if her father was indeed Thomas, but perhaps he died? Perhaps Maggie was raised by a kinsman, Patrick, as his daughter? To date, I have not seen any children by him and wife Jean.

We do know Maggie was able to read and write as she signed some legal paperwork after the death of her husband in 1838. So, Maggie dear, I still long to know who you really were.

Maggie raised the children of Sara after she died. She was indeed loved, as the name Maggie has continued down to the present generation. Sara also had many descendants named for her, but it appears they all died young. Scary.

Maggie, who are you?